Dying of the Light

A Good Friday Meditation from worship with Southminster and First Presbyterian Churches

John 18:1-40

John 19:1-42

firstpres

Last night, we heard of the new commandment Jesus gave to his disciples as he fed them and washed their feet as a servant would.

“I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

Tonight, after hearing this heartbreaking story of betrayal and political scheming and violence and humiliation and death, we are left to go out into the darkness of the night and wait. The love of the new commandment is hard to see tonight.

Sunday is coming, a famous preacher once said about Easter, but it isn’t here yet.

We are left, tonight, with death.

With our hopes for salvation lying in a tomb.

Good Friday is only good for us because we know that what we can see now, this death we see all around us, will not be victorious.

We are also a people, though, who deeply resist death. We live the words of poet Dylan Thomas:

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rage at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

In the gospels, though, Jesus doesn’t rage at close of day. He may not go gently, exactly, into the night, but he does go there intentionally.

When he appears before the chief priests and they try to trap him, he offers no defense. He responds with, “I said all of those things publicly. Why are you asking me?”

Jesus is then handed over to Pilate, who wants Jesus to say something, to say anything, that will make this whole trial go away. Jesus won’t do it.

Jesus is heading straight to the cross, heading to his death, not out of defeat but because he knows death is a part of his story of life. He’s headed to Easter, and he knows that death has to happen before resurrection can.

I invite us this weekend to consider what in our lives need to go gently into this Good Friday night.

As we wait for Sunday, can we set down our rage about the things around us that are dying?

Boise Presbytery has experienced lots of death recently. We have closed churches and lost members and experienced the betrayal of colleagues and friends, leaving for other denominations.

There is a lot, quite frankly, I’d like to rage against with all this death.

Jesus didn’t command us to rage against death, though. He simply told us to love one another as he loved us, even as it means death and loss and pain.

And so we return to his words:

‘I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.’

In John’s gospel, how did Jesus love us?

Sacrificially.

He loved us all the way to death. And beyond.

This is the kind of love the world needs to see.

Not the kind of love that requires legislation to protect our privilege or the kind of love that limits who is invited to join God’s family, or the kind of love that makes God’s favor a private commodity, with conditions and prerequisites.

Jesus offered us the gift of loving us with his entire life. And it is that to which we are called with his new commandment.

While Jesus lies three days dead in a tomb, we are left to show the world, through our lives, how we can claim that Good Friday is good.

Sunday’s a coming, friends. But we aren’t there yet. I pray for the courage to stand vigil at the tomb, saying goodbye as things we love go gently into the night, waiting for the dawn of an Easter morn.

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6 thoughts on “Dying of the Light

  1. Pingback: » Dying of the Light

  2. Thank you for this, Marci. I love your question: As we wait for Sunday, can we set down our rage about the things around us that are dying? All morning long, I have been thinking of Emily Dickinson’s poem about grief, “After great pain, a formal feeling comes,” with its haunting last stanza:

    This is the Hour of Lead
    Remembered, if outlived,
    As Freezing persons recollect the Snow–
    First—Chill—then Stupor—then the letting go—

    I don’t mean to suggest that the calling of Good Friday and Holy Saturday is to abandon the rage to change what can be changed, but rather to pause for a time to appreciate the reality of the death that must always precede resurrection.

  3. The leavers probably feel betrayed, too, not that that’s any consolation. I like this because I think you point to a general problem. This is kind of how I feel about universities. I don’t feel rage (in terms of what I understand rage to be) but rather pure, vicious anger at the “change and decay” that “all around I see.”

    I heard a really good Good Friday sermon a few years ago that pointed out that one crucial thing separates us from the people who witnessed this first hand — they really didn’t know what would happen — and we do. I with many Jews think “come speedily in our days Moshiach” and we know that it will happen. IN the fullness of time …

    Happy Easter.

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